Today’s millennials and younger job seekers want employers who can give them more than simply good pay and benefits. They seek a motivating, enriching environment—one in which employees enjoy a shared sense of purpose. The companies that are attracting and retaining the best candidates have a healthy, collaborative culture that embraces creativity and innovation in a highly engaging way that transcends the traditional definition of “work.”
What is most interesting about this trend is that the engaged environment younger workers favor represents more than just an expression of the ideals of a generation focused on work-life balance. In terms of return on investment, the millennial “dream culture” is actually right on the money—quite literally speaking.
As Harvard Business Review reported in “Creating the Best Workplace on Earth,” increases in employee engagement produce dramatic results. Not only do highly engaged teams tend to exceed expectations more often than the most disengaged ones, but businesses whose workers are highly engaged see 54% greater employee retention and 89% higher customer satisfaction scores than firms with less committed employees. In addition, they report as much as four times more revenue growth.
What these statistics should evoke in managers and executives is an appreciation for the high levels of productivity and mutual satisfaction that come with having motivated employees. A team’s ability to collaborate and to learn alongside leadership is ultimately what defines a business’s opportunity set and is well worth prioritizing. So how do you build a motivating culture at work? Here are seven strategies to consider.
Foster a Shared Sense of Purpose
These days, all companies have a mission statement, and ideally, the principles underlying that mission are ones your employees can feel proud to embrace. Workers want to feel that their efforts have a positive impact on the world and affirm their personal life values. That sense of value connection between employees and their work does not just spring into being, however. A company’s leaders have a responsibility to build that connection, in part by sharing the organization’s purpose with its workers on a continuous basis.
A key factor in creating a shared sense of purpose is giving employees opportunities to interact directly with the company’s executives and CEO. When members of upper management prioritize taking time to engage with individual employees, the workers gain an elevated understanding of the firm’s vision and mission and become substantially more effective at realizing the company’s goals.
Host Team-Building Exercises
Team-building activities such as outings and trips are bonding experiences that foster empathy and trust among employees and between those employees and their leaders. The team spirit these events create can be subsequently perpetuated in the workplace through collaborative exercises such as brainstorming sessions and self-directed breakouts. These kinds of activities encourage employees to work collaboratively as they master different skill sets and tasks, in addition to normalizing the free sharing of ideas.
Make Everyone a Leader
The traditional company hierarchy looks like a pyramid, with executives at the top, managers in the middle, and frontline employees at the bottom. Not only does that structure tend to promote a stagnant, monotonous work environment, but it also encourages creative bottlenecks by forcing new ideas to flow up the chain of command and down again in a fixed pattern. In our fast-paced world where innovation is at a premium, that just will not do.
The trend today is toward an organizational structure that looks less like a pyramid and more like a circle. An empowered environment in which everyone is given a voice and an opportunity to share new ideas—even with occupants of the C-suite—can contribute significantly to employee productivity. Remind workers that they are setting high standards for others to follow, and as needed, help them improve their communication skills or develop new skills that will make them better team members. This kind of environment appeals to millennials, of whom 87% consider opportunities for career or professional growth and development important, reports Gallup.
Nothing quells an employee’s motivation faster than being left out of the loop. Taking time to share information with workers about the company’s performance and strategic goals makes them feel that their contributions make a difference. Such communication boosts loyalty among employees and encourages them to be role models for their colleagues and new hires. Involve workers in your company’s planning and decision-making processes by asking for their opinions and input, whether through all-hands meetings or surveys.
Today’s business landscape favors companies that can innovate and pivot quickly. Creating fun and challenging tasks that invite employees to cross-pollinate skill sets—or even swap work roles and responsibilities—builds excitement and allows teams to flex their creative muscles.
Provide a safe space in which employees can experiment and explore new positions and skills so they can build agility. Such freedom unleashes ingenuity, supports social bonding, and creates intrinsic motivation.
Provide Constructive Feedback
Providing constructive feedback involves both elevating employees with positive acknowledgments of their strengths and offering measured, actionable criticism when necessary.
When offering praise to employees, try to make your comments unique to each individual. For example, focus your positive feedback for one team member on creativity and for another on initiative. Find thoughtful ways to address negative points when necessary without quashing that team member’s motivation.
Recognize Employees’ Achievements Frequently
A little recognition goes a long way when building a motivated team. Whether you choose monetary awards, promotions, or other incentives to reward your employees’ dedication and hard work, recognition makes each one feel cared for and keeps the motivational spark alight. To understand what motivates your team members and what form of appreciation would be most meaningful to them, you might need to devote time to interacting with each one individually.
Building a Motivated Team Prepares Everyone for the Future
The shift toward building a company culture that makes work enjoyable and fulfilling (to the point that it no longer feels like “work”) might seem revolutionary, but in a way, it is actually evolutionary. Automation and digital processes have freed much of today’s workforce from the assembly-line-type labor norms of the past, unlocking employees’ time and placing a higher value on their intellectual and creative contributions.
Leaders who want their companies to thrive in the future must recognize the importance of motivating their teams and promoting a culture that advances everyone’s values. Younger workers entering the workforce or advancing through it can benefit from this knowledge as well; it will empower them to choose only those healthy work cultures that fulfill them in ways beyond remuneration.
The result is a win-win scenario. The fact that having a motivated workforce leads to more dollars in the bank. . . well, that is just the icing on the cake.